Tory rebels 'playing Russian roulette' with Brexit
A Shropshire Conservative MP has accused Tory rebels of playing “Russian roulette” by voting against the Government in a debate on Brexit.
Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said he was very disappointed by the 11 Conservative MPs who voted with Labour on an amendment that could allow Parliament to demand changes to any deal the Prime Minister agrees with the EU.
He also accused Labour MPs of behaving like “zoo animals” during the stormy debate on the amendment, which had been tabled by Tory rebel Dominic Grieve.
Mr Kawczynski spoke as Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Brussels for crunch talks with European leaders, hours after her defeat in the Commons.
He said the rebels had weakened Mrs May’s hand in the negotiations, particularly with regard to the tight deadlines that must be met to secure a deal.
Mr Grieve’s amendment to the Brexit Bill will mean the Government now needs to pass an Act of Parliament to ratify any deal with the EU, and gives MPs the power to demand amendments. This could force the PM to return to the EU and ask for further changes, should Parliament vote for it.
However, North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson said he had been assured by Brexit Secretary David Davis that the vote would not affect the timetable of Britain leaving the EU.
“It’s most unfortunate and regrettable, with the Prime Minister going to Brussels, but it will not change the timetable of Brexit,” he said, adding that the effect of the vote would be largely technical.
Mr Kawczynski said the Conservatives should put on a united front at such a sensitive time rather than bickering among themselves.
“I think these people are playing a game of Russian roulette with very high stakes,” he said.
“I think it will impede the Prime Minister’s hand, and leave her very constrained as far as the timetable is concerned. What happens if Parliament rejects the deal? She will have to go back to the EU, and how much time will she be given to renegotiate?
“I also think the way the Labour Party were behaving, with all the bellowing and roaring, was more akin to a zoo.”
Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies said he was also disappointed by the vote, and believed it would now make a “no deal” Brexit more likely.
“I’m sorry the Government lost,” he said. “I think it’s made things more difficult for Theresa May in her negotiating in Brussels.
“I’m not sure it’s going to make an awful lot of difference, I think we’ve got to the stage where we are leaving the EU but I think it does make the prospect of a “no-deal” Brexit more likely.”
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said he voted against Mr Grieve’s amendment, but questioned whether it would actually have much effect in practical terms.
“I voted against the amendment and with the Government, reflecting the manifesto commitment to respect the referendum result,” he said.
“We will have to see what it means in terms of the actual implementation, given that both the Prime Minister and the minister concerned had already given a commitment to a meaningful vote in parliament. I’m not sure, in practical terms, what it will mean.”
Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, added: “This is a setback, but it is not the end of the world.
“Parliament will have a say on the final Brexit deal and that is right. However, there may be better ways for the rebels to express their concerns.”